Amazingly, for eighty years Ettore Steccone’s brilliant and original squeegee design has remained virtually unchanged and in continual use worldwide. But what is the story of Ettore Steccone and the invention of the modern squeegee?
Ettore Steccone was born in the small mountain village of Mongiardino, a two hour drive north of Genova in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy in 1896. Following service in the Italian army during World War One Ettore left Italy in 1922 and like millions of other immigrants set out for the New World to seek his fortune and a better life for his family. On arrival in the USA he initially worked in his brothers Californian produce business whilst doing part time janitorial work and cleaning windows.
Slowly Ettore expanded his window cleaning business, he became a fixture around Oakland riding his Indian motorcycle with a ladder on his shoulder and a bucket dangling from its end! But much as enjoyed his job and the freedom it afforded him, he didn’t like the tools he had to work with. The heavy steel squeegee with its double rubber blade and twelve screws to hold it in place was cumbersome and frankly didn’t do a good job. He had better ideas.
While cleaning windows, and with the help of his wife, doing janitorial work, he started tinkering with his ideas for a revolutionary new type of window squeegee: a T-shaped tool, manufactured of brass with a single precision slit rubber blade which dried windows virtually streak free. After much trial and error, he finally patented his innovative new squeegee in 1936 and named it the NEW DEAL.
With a small workshop set up in the garage at the back of his house on 23rd Avenue, Oakland, he began the process of manufacturing his innovation and trying to figure out how an uneducated Italian immigrant was going to convince other window cleaners to use his product. Initially, he approached dealers specializing in the supply of products to the window cleaning trade. They were all sceptical. He was told that the squeegee was too small, too light and that he would never be able to convert others to use his new-fangled NEW DEAL.
One of the largest and most well-known suppliers of window cleaning tools at that time was the J. Racenstein Company located in New York City. Ettore took his product to them and they summarily rejected it. This time however, Ettore made a wager with the owner. He bet him the best hat in New York City, that within one month the J. Racenstein Company would come begging to buy his revolutionary new squeegee.
With that bet in mind, Ettore began giving away his new squeegee to all his fellow window cleaners asking them just to try it out for one day on the job to see if they didn’t agree that his tool was far superior to anything that they were currently using. His marketing plan worked. Window cleaners soon started asking where they could purchase Ettore’s new squeegee and he happily told them to contact the J. Racenstein Company.
Ettore continued to manufacture and ship products from his garage until 1954 when he and his five employees moved into his first real factory. Things did not always run smoothly for this hard working, determined man. The loss of his patent, the infringement of his name, world conflicts which caused metal shortages and delays to the production of his squeegee; all things which would possibly defeat other men, served only to make Ettore persevere. His NEW DEAL took on a new name and became the ETTORE Master, a name that was to become known throughout the world.
Often imitated, Ettore Steccone’s original design has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 1936. The secret at the heart of the system is his rubber, a razor sharp, supple, smooth and consistent rubber that leaves the glass perfectly clean and streak free. . With the same secrecy and security afforded soft drink formulas, the ingredients and formulation of Ettore rubber is a carefully guarded company secret.
Ettore lived to see his American dream fulfilled. He saw his family prosper and his company earn recognition throughout the world as manufacturer of quality window cleaning products.
Ettore died in 1984 at the age of 87. Today his family continues his legacy by bringing quality products to professionals and home owners throughout the world, and window cleaners continue to use his brilliant invention.